The Disappearance of the Downtown Department Store
The large downtown department stores, that were so popular in the 1950s, began to decline in the 1970s. Mergers took place and dozens of independent department stores and regional chains failed. By 2013, no department stores remained downtown in Atlanta, Houston, Baltimore, Kansas City, Denver, Detroit, Saint Louis, or Cleveland. Only New York City and San Francisco still entice shoppers with several major downtown department stores. Macy’s survives downtown in Chicago, Washington, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Boston, Minneapolis, and Cincinnati along with a Nordstrom in Seattle and Portland. Dallas still boasts a Neiman Marcus, Milwaukee has a Boston Store, and Indianapolis has a Nordstrom and a Carson Pirie Scott.
Department Stores Today
Shopping habits moved to the suburbs where indistinguishable malls house similar national department stores. Today, mid-range Macy’s1dominates the market with 1,000 stores, upscale Nordstrom2 has 115 stores, Neiman Marcus3, 42 stores, regional Dillard’s4 has 330 stores in the south and mid- west, Belk5, 306 stores in the southeast, and Bon-Ton6, 280 stores mostly in northern states.
1. Macy’s, the largest chain of departments stores, formerly known as Federated Department Stores, is well known for its flagship New York store and the luxury-oriented Bloomingdale's.
2. Nordstrom’s headquarters and their flagship store are located in downtown Seattle, Washington.
3. Neiman Marcus’ headquarters and flagship store are located in Dallas, Texas with stores in 20 states. 4. In 1960, William Dillard acquired the Joseph Pfeifer store and the Gus Blass Co. in Little Rock, then five Leonard’s stores in Fort Worth, the Lowenstein's chain in Memphis, the twelve Stix, Baer & Fuller stores in St. Louis, and twenty-six Joske's stores in Texas, followed by Higbees in Cleveland, Holmes of New Orleans, and Ivey's in the south. In 1998 Dillard’s purchased all of the Mercantile Stores. 5. Belk, headquartered in Charlotte with stores concentrated near the Carolinas, Georgia, and Alabama, purchased Proffitt’s, McRae’s, and Parisian from Saks in 2005 and 2006. 6. Bon-Ton serves the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions; other names include Bergner's, Boston Store, Carson Pirie Scott, Elder-Beerman, Herberger's, and Younkers.
Iconic Department Stores that have Survived
and the memorable elements they contain:
Wannamaker’s, Philadelphia (Now Macy’s)
Eagle, 6-story Atrium, Organ, Mezzanine
Marshall Fields, Chicago (Now Macy’s)
Glass mosaic Tiffany Dome, Atrium
Macy’s, New York City
Still the World’s Largest Department Store
Emporium, San Francisco (Now Bloomingdale’s)
Bloomingdale’s, New York City
A landmark Art Deco building since it opened in 1927
Neiman Marcus, Dallas
Remarkable at Christmas time
L.S Ayers, Indianapolis (Now Carson Pirie Scott)
The traditional mezzanine
Frederick & Nelson, Seattle, (Now Nordstrom)
An exterior that still evokes its classical 1918 design
Meier & Frank, Portland, Oregon (Now Macy’s)
A full block of glazed terra cotta
Chain & Discount Stores
Value-oriented chains, often located downtown in the 1950s, began moving to suburban malls as the decade progressed. Today, JC Penney1 with 1,106 U.S. stores, Sears2 (who merged with K-Mart in 2005) with 926 stores, and H & M3 with 300 U.S. stores, are located in large and small malls. Outside the malls, often located near other big box retailers, there are the family-focused Kohl’s4 with 1,067 stores, the ubiquitous Wal-Mart5 with 3,800 stores and Target6 (the descendent of what once was the worlds largest department store, Hudson’s) with 1,743 stores. Discount department stores commonly have a central customer checkout area, generally in the front area of the store.
1. J. C. Penney is a chain of American mid-range department stores based in Plano, Texas.
2. Sears, Roebuck and Company’s catalogs became famous and the company grew to become the largest retailer in the U.S. in the 1950s. The catalog program was discontinued in 1993.
3. Hennes & Mauritz is a Swedish multinational retail clothing company operating in 40 countries.
4. Kohl's, founded in 1962, positions itself between a department store and a discounter. It is a value- oriented, family-focused, specialty department store chain headquartered in suburban Milwaukee. In 2008, Kohl's was the 24th-largest retailer in the United States.
5. Wal-Mart, founded by Sam Walton, headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas is the world’s largest private employer with 8,500 stores in 15 countries.
6. In 1891, Hudson’s in Detroit was the most profitable clothing retailer in the country. In 1969, it merged with the Dayton Corporation, creator of the Target discount chain, in Minneapolis. Dayton-Hudson closed the flagship Hudson department store in downtown Detroit in 1983, but expanded its Target operations. It acquired Mervyn's in 1978 and renamed itself the Target Corporation in 2000.